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Reform Conservatives and Foreign Policy

Ed Kilgore gives some advice to reform conservatives:

Perhaps the most troubling thing to me about Room To Grow is that it avoided immigration, as well as foreign and defense policy. These are critical issues, obviously, and talking about them will expose cavernous divisions within the GOP. This is exactly what you should be doing.

Kilgore makes a fair point that these are issues that can’t be avoided by conservatives that are interested in significant policy reform, but there are a few reasons why reform conservatives don’t want to focus on them. The difficulty is not so much that the party is divided over these issues, though the intra-party divisions are real and important, but that the people identified with reform conservatism either don’t agree on what should be done or don’t think anything significant needs to be changed. It also happens to be the case that the people most closely identified with reform conservatism tend to specialize in domestic policy issues, which leaves little time or attention for foreign policy. At the risk of over-generalizing, reform conservatives may or may not regret their support for the Iraq war, but for almost all of them the experience of the Bush years has had no effect on their broader views on foreign policy and military spending. With one or two notable exceptions, it is fair to say that reform conservatives have no significant problems with the way that the last administration conducted foreign policy, and they have few substantive disagreements with neoconservatives. Put simply, most reform conservatives don’t care about foreign policy reform because they don’t think there is anything seriously wrong with Republican foreign policy.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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